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THE BLACKBERRY-GATHERER; OR, THE
NEVER, surely, was man more fond of a blackberry than I am. With all its thorns, the bramble is a favourite with me. It first gives me pleasure with its purple stem, green leaves, and white flowers, and then regales me with its delicious fruit.
It was autumn. More than half September bad rolled away, and I had not plucked a single blackberry. I set off to a hedge which had often furnished me with a sumptuous feast. There the spiky thorn formed a barrier which cattle could not pass, and there the bramble flourished in all its glory. Alas! I was disappointed of my treat, for not a ripe berry could I find.
“Well,” thought I, “though I reckoned on my entertainment, I must not take the matter to heart. True it is that I am thirsty, and very grateful would the juicy fruit have been to me; but I can do without it. Let me be thankful that I am not a toilworn pilgrim in the hot desert, overwhelmed with the dreadful announcement, The well is dry!""
Thus endeavouring to make the best of my little disappointment, I walked on, and soon after saw a poor fisherman coming towards me with a basket. The very sight of the basket encouraged both hope and expectation.
“Have you been gathering blackberries?” said I.
“I have, sir," replied the man, “but they are scarce enough, at present; by-and-by there will be enough of them.”
As the man spoke, he removed the lid of his basket, that I might see his store; and a goodly store it was; some of the berries were certainly red, but the greater part of them were black.
“Do you sell them ?” said I.
“No, sir,” said he, “I never sell them; I get them for my wife, who is uncommonly fond of a blackberry pudding."
“That does not at all surprise me," said I. “The blackberry is good, eat it how you will. It is good cooked or uncooked, in a pudding or a pie, plucked from the bush, or picked from the basket. May I have a few ?”
“ As many as you like, sir," was his frank reply; so I set to work picking the tip-toppers from among them, taking as many as I chose, dropping a sixpence into the basket for the man's children, if he had any, and feeling very thankful for so unexpected a feast.
“ But why have you put these two sprays in your
” said he;
basket ?” said I; “why do you not pull the berries off them?” They are for my wife, sir,"
I never ge blackberrying without getting a spray or two of the best I can find for her; she is so uncommonly fond of them. You can't think, sir, how she likes the sprays."
“ That is right,” said I, “and I hope you will never give up so excellent a custom. This is the way to make a wife love you, for kindness begets kindness all the world over. Those two sprays are worth a whole basketful of blackberries. Of the pudding you will most likely have your share, but the sprays will be your wife's, and her's alone.”
For some time the poor fisherman kept shaking up his basket that I might pick out the best of its contents, while I kept talking to him, not knowing which was the better pleased of the two.
To me it was a double feast; much did I enjoy the blackberries, but still more the man's affection for his wife.
This unpretending, gentle deed, on the part of the poor fisherman, was an occurrence that just suited me.
While the Sir Walter Raleighs of the world gallantly spread their costly mantles in the mire that royal feet may not be incommoded, and while such courtier-like actions are handed down to the admiration of posterity, be it mine to record the less questionable kindnesses of common life that occur in the sphere of my own observation. And forgive me, ye admirers of Sir Walter, if I rank the affection of a poor man for his wife higher than I do the questionable attentions of a courtier
to his queen.
At a time when the violence of drunken husbands towards their wives is, alas ! so much on the increase, justly calling forth public indignation, it is pleasant to meet with a case of a different kind. It was on the stile on the height above the vale of Ecclesbourne, Hastings, that the poor fisherman rested his basket while I revelled in the banquet it provided for me. I am not likely to forget the place, the fisherman, the basket, or the blackberries.
Hastings, with thy parades and pleasant pathways,
I owe thee much; for, beneath His indulgent care who has spread out the waters with his hand, spangled the sky with stars, and studded the bramble with blackberries, thy breezes have given me health, thy hills and dales added to my enjoyment, and thy Sabbath-heralds of mercy ministered largely to my peace. A blessing from above light on thy inhabitants, thy mariners, and the stranger sojourning within thy gates, from St. Leonard's to Ecclesbourne, from the windmills to the sea, and from the barons of the Cinque Ports to the household of the poor fisherman with his basket of blackberries!
SWEET AND SOOTHING.
IF in this world there are many things that are harsh and irritating, there are also many which are sweet and soothing; nor can we do better than garner up the latter in our memory as anodynes to the daily cares that ruffle our temper and destroy our repose. The mind is more peaceful in contemplating a calm than in dwelling on a storm, and we benefit ourselves more by reflecting on the meekness of the lamb than in pondering on the ferocity of the wolf.
How sweet and soothing it is at the end of a day of care, passed in the battle of life and among the hard ways of men, to find ourselves once more in the calm quietude of a domestic home, solaced by the soft voices and the kindly deeds of those we truly love! It is as an oasis in the desert to the pilgrim, or as the gentle breeze and cup of cool water to the thirsty and toilworn traveller.
It steals the sting from every care,
The smart from every wound,
And gentle deeds abound.
It is said that, in the “Repos du Berger," or